On Tuesday, Sheila Heintz was doing what she does every morning -- reading the Free Press -- when she got to a story headlined, Priceless pictures' owner sought.
"Oh, my God, that's me," she recalls thinking. "Someone's got my pictures."
Actually, it wasn't really the headline on my column about a collection of lost and found family photos that twigged her to the fact she was reading about herself. It wasn't even the small, circa 1947 black-and-white snapshot above the column. The shot featuring her then-four-year-old niece Lorraine "in the potato patch on Grampa Howarth's farm," as it read on the back of the photo.
It had been months since the envelope of pictures she had planned to deliver to her brother had mysteriously vanished, so at first, Sheila overlooked the photo and the headline.
She didn't recognize herself in the story until she read how, sometime last summer, a Youville Street resident named Larry Chartrand found a water-stained brown envelope with the old family photos inside, then read how the envelope had been addressed:
"For Myrna, Lorraine and Valerie... Love, Aunt Sheila."
Later, when we spoke, "Aunt" Sheila recalled what it was like when she realized the photos were lost.
"I felt terrible. I couldn't replace them."
They were Sheila's own, and the only photos of the family and her nieces growing up.
In retrospect, she thinks that since she intended to deliver them, she may have placed the envelope on her car trunk for a moment and forgot they were there. And when she drove away, the envelope fell off.
She surmises that because Chartrand lives only two houses away from her condo unit, some passerby picked it up, checked the contents and simply dropped it at the nearest house.
There's a poignant postscript to why Sheila had gathered up the family photos that had been destined for sharing with her three nieces, now all in their 60s and scattered from Winnipeg to Inwood to Teulon.
"My husband died last spring," she told me.
Her husband, Billi, wasn't the only family she lost this year.
She's lost five family members since last Christmas. So, in a way, when Chartrand arrived Tuesday afternoon with the photos, it was like an early present for what I hope will be a happier Christmas and New Year's Day for Sheila and her family.
Having said that, may I also make a Christmas Day suggestion:
Take lots of pictures.
And that goes for all of you.
They're priceless, you know.